After its slingshot passage around Earth, NASA’s Juno space probe hit some technical snags prior to entering safe mode. Despite the minor setback, Juno is operational and will continue to make its way to Jupiter for a planned 2016 visit.
An earlier report from the Associated Press indicated that Juno, which performed a “gravity assist” pass around Earth on Wednesday, was communicating with ground control but some of its onboard instruments did not power up. Scott Bolton, Juno’s chief scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, SwRI, said the space probe had not been damaged after the slingshot procedure, which gave Juno the necessary boost of speed it needs to reach Jupiter.
After passing Earth, Juno entered "safe mode," reports the Register. It is unclear why the space probe turned off some non-essential functions. According to SwRI, “Safe mode is a state that the spacecraft may enter if its on-board computer perceives conditions on the spacecraft are not as expected. Onboard Juno, the safe mode turned off instruments and a few non-critical spacecraft components, and pointed the spacecraft toward the Sun to ensure the solar arrays received power.” Juno was soon restored, exiting safe mode Saturday at 3:12 p.m. EDT, 12:12 p.m. PDT, according to SwRI, but the institute did not state if the space probe turned itself on or was turned on by ground control, reports the Register.
While in safe mode, Juno functioned as planned and its trajectory toward Jupiter was not changed. “The safe mode did not impact the spacecraft's trajectory one smidgeon,” said SwRi.
Juno will reach Jupiter on July 4, 2016, and will be the first space probe to orbit around the giant planet’s poles. As part of its mission, the space probe will orbit Jupiter 32 times in one year.